The Statesboro Blue Devils managed to sweep the Wayne County Yellow Jackets in a region showdown Tuesday night. The girls were able to come from behind for a 42-40 victory, while the boys rolled over the Yellow Jackets 65-32.
The girls game featured a showdown between two of the state's top teams in 5-A, and two of the best players in the state. Statesboro’s Lacy Robins came in scoring over 15 points per game and has already signed with Georgia Southern. Wayne County’s Terren Ward is averaging 22 points per game, and is being heavily recruited.
The Yellow Jackets were 13-0 entering Tuesday’s game, while Statesboro was 12-3. The two coaches seemed to have different philosophies on how to combat the opponents best player. Statesboro coach Jeff Seier decided to play zone, and try and keep Ward to under 20 points, and not let anyone else hurt them. The Jackets Kala Hires-Hobbs decided to try and lock down Robins with a smaller, faster player, and go man-to-man.
“We felt if we could limit Ward to under 20 points, and do a good job against the rest of their team we could win tonight,” said Seier. “We were able to do that, and come out with a big win.”
In the long run, both coaches were successful at their gamepan. Robins was held to just three points, while Ward had 17 points in leading all scorers. The difference in the game was the play of Bailee Roberts (15 points) in the post, and the Blue Devils Jamiah Jones (12 points) was able to hit a couple key baskets at the end of the game.
“They did a good job on Lacy tonight,” Seier said. “I was really proud of how Bailee and J.J. (Jamaiah Jones) played tonight. Bailee did a great job in the paint, and J.J. made some big baskets when we needed her.”
The Blue Devils actually looked like they may run away with the win early on. Statesboro jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and took an 18-6 lead on a Robins three pointer at the end of the first quarter. That three accounted for Robins only points, and was one of only two three pointers in the game for Statesboro.
The Jackets came back in the second quarter as they outscored Statesboro 11-5, with Bailee Roberts accounting for all five Statesboro points.
The Jackets came out of the half red hot. Ward scored eight of her 17 points in the third quarter. The Jackets used a 10-0 run to take a 27-23 lead. Statesboro battled back, but would trail 31-29 at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter saw two ties, and four different lead changes. Trailing by three, Statesboro tied the game 35-35 on a three pointer by Jones. Ward then gave Wayne a brief lead, but Statesboro answered with a Madison Lee 15 footer, and a layup by Roberts off a nice dish from Robins.
The Jackets tied the game at 40-40 on a three pointer by Ajmanni Jefferson with 33 seconds left. Jones answered as she drove to the basket and got fouled,. She was able to make both free throws to give Statesboro a 42-40 lead with 6.5 seconds left. Jefferson attempted a three pointer at the buzzer, but it bounced up at hit the top of the backboard, as Statesboro escaped with the two-point victory.
“We knew this was going to be a slugout matchup tonight,” Seier said. “We will probably have a couple other slugouts like this before the season is over. I’m just tickled to death with as few points as Lacy scored we were able to beat a team of that caliber.”
The last time the Statesboro boys played Wayne County, the Jackets were celebrating a region championship after hitting a three pointer at the buzzer. Tuesday night was a totally different game as the Blue Devils crushed the Jackets 65-32 behind a game-high 35 points from Zarion Griffin.
The Blue Devils have been red hot lately, having won 11 games in a row. Griffin has been equally hot as he scored 51 points against New Hampstead, 31 against Swainsboro, and now 35 against Wayne County. Griffin also went over the 1,000 career point mark this week as well.
“He is just continuing to step up his game,”
said Statesboro coach Lee Hill. “He is hitting from outside, but he is also taking the ball to the basket, and when he gets fouled, he is hitting his free throws.”
Statesboro led throughout the game, but really put things away in the second quarter. Using a suffocating defense the Blue Devils went from being up by eight points, to being up by 21 points in the blink of an eye. Griffin actually scored nine points in the last 55 seconds of the second quarter. The Blue Devils forced four straight turnovers, and Griffin hit three layups, and then a three pointer at the buzzer to put them up 38-17 at the half.
In the second half Coach Hill took off his full court press, but the Blue Devil lead only increased. Griffin scored 12 more points in helping Statesboro to a 57-24 lead. The starters sat out most of the fourth quarter as the game was already out of hand.
“I thought the defense we played in the second quarter was as good as we’ve played all year,” Hill said. “This is not a bad team, but we took them out of it with our full court press there in the second quarter. We shot the ball well tonight, and we are continuing to get better.”
Statesboro improves to 12-5 on the year. Up next the Blue Devils travel to Ware County Friday, and then host Southeast Bulloch Saturday night.
Elsewhere the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets were swept at Jenkins. The girls lost 45-35 in overtime, while the boys fell 71-67 despite a game high 28 points from Ryan Swanson. Next up for the Jackets they host Beach Friday night.
The Bulloch Academy Gators split a pair of games at home against Trinity in their region openers. The boys lost 85-48, while the girls won 43-28. Kacie Ricketts led the Gators with 21 points, while Regan Ellis added 11. Next up Bulloch Academy is at Robert Toombs Thursday night.